Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 30 Mar 2023
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate this late complaint about quality of care and inadequate isolation when Mr Y was moved to a different care home amid a COVID-19 outbreak. There is not a good reason for the length of delay in the complaint bring brought to the Ombudsman. We also could not achieve a more meaningful outcome for Mrs X.
- Mrs X complained her father (Mr Y) was not adequately cared for and not properly isolated when he and other residents were moved to a new care home amid a COVID-19 outbreak in their former home. Mrs X says Mr Y was neglected and died from COVID-19 within two weeks. She says money was stolen from his wallet, left in the care home, after his death. She says the matter has caused significant distress for the family. She wants answers and for the Council and care home to be held responsible.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
- we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
- further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- Mr Y and other residents living in the same care home were moved suddenly in late 2020 due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in their care home. Mrs X’s complaint is about how this move was handled, which she says led to Mr Y’s death in January 2021 from COVID-19.
- The law says complaints should be brought to us within 12 months of a person becoming aware of the matter, unless there are good reasons for delay. I have therefore carefully considered the timescales involved in the complaint process.
- Mrs X complained in early 2021. An independent investigator issued a report in October 2021, and the Council wrote to Mrs X in November 2021. Mrs X and the Council then held meetings and discussed the matter for several months. Mrs X sent a further complaint letter around March 2022. The Council sent a final complaint response to Mrs X in July 2022 reiterating an offer it had made to pay £1,000 to recognise the distress the family experienced.
- Mrs X then wrote to the Council in February 2023, saying she had taken time to reflect on matters and was willing to accept the Council’s offer of £1,000. She then contacted us in March 2023.
- While some of the delay in the complaint being brought to the Ombudsman was due to the length of time it took for the Council to investigate and respond to complaints, there are also periods where Mrs X could have escalated matters more quickly. There is not a good enough reason for the delay in bringing the complaint to us.
- However in any event, I am of the view we would not achieve a meaningful outcome for Mrs X if we investigated this complaint. Further investigation by us is unlikely to provide more meaningful information and it is unlikely we would recommend a higher financial remedy than the Council has paid. Mrs X referred to a figure of £100,000 as more appropriate, in her correspondence with the Council. This is not something the Ombudsman could achieve. When we recommend a payment, it is often a modest, symbolic amount and we do not award compensation in the way the courts can.
- We will not investigate Mrs X’s late complaint because there is not a good reason for the delay in bringing the matter to the Ombudsman, and we could not achieve a more meaningful remedy.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman